Sunday, December 28, 2014

3 Coaches for NJ – 3 Goals for Stepan – 8 in a Row!

Eight Games – Eight consecutive wins – And your New York Rangers are flying.

Can anyone question the impact Alain Vigneault has had on this New York Rangers hockey club?  Season one he took us to the Stanley Cup Finals.  And this year he has the Rangers on their longest win streak in recent memory – 8 consecutive wins.  And we’re winning even when we don’t play our best hockey – like last night where we outclassed the New Jersey Devils 3-1.

The Devils had just fired their head coach – and his replacement was – well – it’s complicated:

Hall and Oates?

Not exactly.

Adam Oates and Scott Stevens?  Two coaches?

Well, yes – but not exactly.  They are co-coaches (Editor - CoCo for short?).

(Dave Pucks – not exactly)

(Editor – so there are two coaches?)

(Dave Pucks – yes – but its more complicated than that)

(Editor – how could it be more complicated than two coaches at the same time?)

(Dave Pucks – because the GM – Lou Lamoriello – said that he also wanted to stand behind the bench for the next few games)

(Editor – so now there are three coaches?)

(Dave Pucks – apparently so.)

Anyway – with three coaches behind the bench – the Devils came into this game heavily coached.  In fact – you could say Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault could have been outcoached 3 to 1.   

But – instead – it was the Rangers who prevailed 3-1.  Here’s what happened:

In the first – the Devils were on the powerplay when Derick Stepan stole the puck at the point and had a break away.  Stepan advanced on Cory Schneider – deked him – and calmly slid the puck 5-hole for a 1-0 lead.

In the second – the Rangers were on the powerplay when Marty St. Louis absolutely ripped a one-timer toward the New Jersey net.  Stepan was trying for a tip in – but the puck’s velocity was so fats that neither Steps or Schneider had a chance to react.  The puck hit Stepan and bounced on in for a 2-0 lead. 

But then – mid way through the 2nd – the Devils found a way to score – Steve Bemier off a perfect feed snapped the puck past Lundqvist and we were back to a one goal lead.

And that’s how the third period unfolded until late in the contest when the Devils pulled Schneider to get the extra skater.  Moments after Rick Nash’s offside spoiled his own empty netter – Stepan gained possession of the puck – made his way to the red line and netted his hat trick at 19:05 to close out the scoring.

The Rangers had 28 shots on goal and held NJ to just 20. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome of this game?  I’d say yes.  The Rangers scored on the Power Play – scored shorthanded – scored on an empty net – and killed off 4 penalties. 

Where we stand:  The Capitals – damn them – keep on winning.  But – with 42 points and two games at hand – the Rangers have 3rd place in the Metro Division and now only trail the 2nd place Islanders by 5 points with 2 games at hand.  And we are three points above the “line of death” – the 9th place Boston Bruins.

What Next?  Monday night brings us to Dallas to take on the Stars who are 15-14-5 in the Western conference.  Can we win 9 in a row? 

We’ll see tomorrow.

Dave Pucks Out and thanks for listening


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Marty Nash-mass! Rangers Cool Hot Caps – Reclaim Third Place

What more could New York want for Christmas?  We've got a good local team on a hot streak with realistic playoff aspirations.  And it's not the (surging too late) Giants, the (soon to be Rex-less) Jets, the (one bat away) Mets, the (triangle?  How about "Wrecked-angle") Knicks, the (regressing) Nets, or the (where's Jeter?) Yankees. 
 
No - It's your New York ("Potvan Sucks") Rangers Hockey Club – surging back into third place with a 4-2 win over the red hot Washington Capitals – who used to be 7-0-2 coming into the match – and in sole possession of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
 
But - 60 minutes of hockey later – Washington heads home with a big steaming lump of coal in the back of their hockey pants.  The Rangers beat them 4-2 at home, recapturing third place in their division and heading into the Christmas holiday with seven straight wins - the best current streak in the NHL.
 
In the first two periods the Rangers clamped down on Ovechkin with coach Alain Vigneault sending his top offense and defense lines over the boards whenever number 8 hit the ice.  Hockey is the only major sport where there is an actual rules-based home team advantage – line matching – and Vigneault took full advantage.
 
The result – through two periods Caps mustered only 11 shots on Hank – and no goals.  But the Rangers scored early in both periods:
 
At 3:32 of the first period – moments after the oversized Ovechkin knocked the hobbit-sized Mats Zuccarello to the ice – the small Norwegian led an odd man rush at Caps goalie.  Zuc headed for the left post but launched the puck towards the right.  He missed the net – but the puck hit the leg of a streaking Rick Nash and bounced into the net for a 1-0 lead.  It's just one of those years for Nash and about time!
 
And then, at 27 seconds into 2nd, after Ovechkin illegally boarded Mats Zuccarello (Editor - that sounds more graphic than it actually was) the Rangers had the man advantage.  The Ranger power play has, at least at times, looked much more organized this year than in recent memory.  And this time - the Rangers scored again.  Dan Boyle – who was brought in here to help on extra-man situations – helped get the puck to Marty St. Louis in his favorite sniper position – to the right of the net.  St Louis just flat-out ripped the puck from a nearly impossible angle right by Holtby and it was 2-0.
 
But the Capitals would not go quietly.  They put on a flurry early in the third but Henrik was able to keep them off the score sheet.  And then – off a pass by Mats – Rick Nash scored - a real goal this time – a sniper's shot that beat Holtby high and to his right.
 
So 3-0 Rangers with less than 15 minutes to play.  And the Caps had played the previous night and had every reason to just give up.
 
But instead, they surged.  Less than a minute later Evgeny Kuznetsov somehow trickled the puck through Lundqvist – who probably would like to get another try at that one – and it was 3-1.  And then –the Caps became coming in waves.  There were 21 Capitals shots on goal in the third period alone and the puck never seemed to get out of the Ranger's defensive zone.
 
At 10:58 – the hated one – Alex Ovechkin - scored on the powerplay and suddenly 3-0 was 3-2 and all momentum had left the Ranger's side.
 
The Caps kept coming and the Rangers seemed unable to clear the puck – hanging on a hank and a prayer as best they could.  But then at 14:35 of the third – Washington's own stupidity brought them down.
 
First Nicklas Backstrom caught Derick Brassard right in the nose with a Hi Stick.  The refs awarded a double-minor – meaning that the Caps would have to spend 4:00 of the remaining 5:25shorthanded.  And then – on the ensuing faceoff (Editor – did you say Brassard is suing because Backstom almost knocked his face off?) (Dave Pucks – no) Jason Chimera attempted a hand-pass which is an automatic penalty.  So now it was 5 on 3.
 
And at 16:12 either Marty St. Louis got his 2nd of the night – or Nash got a hat trick.  We're not sure:
 
Here's what happened:  Nash shot the puck and Holtby made the initial save.  The puck popped up in the air and as Holtby grabbed for it – Marty St. Louis swung his stick at the puck.  Marty's stick hit Holtby's glove – the glove hit the puck – the puck went in the net – and the Rangers lead 4-2.  
 
The refs gave the goal to Marty – but on replays it looks like he never touched it.  So we'll see if the NHL make a ruling today - or maybe are they all drinking egg nog now and the goal will stand at St Louis',
 
In any event – the 4-2 lead with the remaining penalty was too much for the Caps to overcome – and so the Rangers hold on and climb past Washington as they head to Santa Day as the hottest team in the NHL.
 
Did Special Teams Decide This Game?  Well, the Rangers killed 4 of 5 and scored on 2 of 7.  So our advantage on Specials was a factor in the win and as mentioned – the Capitals defeated themselves with that late triple penalty.
 
Where We Stand:  By beating the Caps we move past them into 3rd Place in the Metro with 40 point – just 6 behind the Islanders' with 2 games at hand.  The Capitals hold on to the 8th and final playoff spot – the Wild Card – 1 point in front of the Bruins.
 
Now What?  We celebrate that other guy in red pants: Santa Claus.  The Rangers get a few days off until Saturday night when they take on the Devils at home (Editor – Aren't you going to that game?)  (Dave Pucks – Oh snap.  You're right Ed, I almost forgot with all the holiday spirit and stuff).  See you at the game!

 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ho Ho Ho! Six In A Row! The Rangers beat Hurricane


The Rangers did a solid for backup goaltender Cam Talbot this week – signing him to a one year contract extension as he approached unrestricted free agency.  And Cam returned the favor – turning in a home shutout of the Carolina Hurricanes to sweep the weekend home-and-home series and extend their winning streak to 6.     

Unlike Saturday night – on Sunday the Rangers scored first – with Captain Ryan McDonagh rocketing a beautiful pass from Derek Stepan past goaltender Anton Khudobin to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead that they would never build on – but never relinquish either.

Khudobin played well enough to be one of three selected stars of the game – stoning the Rangers on many several great chances including one scramble in the Carolina crease – that upon later replays appeared to cross the line.  But in real time the Toronto Goal Judges ruled it no goal and so the Rangers in the end had to settle for one goal.

But the Ranger defense and Cam Talbot made that one goal hold up.

In the end the Rangers outshot the Hurricanes 31-18, including just 4 Carolina shots on goal in the first and third periods.  So Cam Talbot just had 18 saves to make – but he made them all.   Khudobin played brilliantly, dispelling a potent ranger attack that pressed throughout the match.  In the end it was a battle of backup goaltenders – although it would have been fun to see our Cam vs. theirs.

Carolina reminded me of the Rangers under Tom Renney, great motivated defense but not enough offence.    It’s so much nicer under Alain Vigneault where we can score some goals and not have to be perfect on defense every night.

Of course – we were perfect on D this time – and the Rangers got the 1-0 win and their 6th straight

Did Special teams decide this Game?  The Rangers were 0-3 on the powerplay but killed of the lone Hurricane’s penalty.  So I guess it’s “no”. 

Where we stand:  The Rangers at 17-10-4 now hold possession of 3rd place in the Metro Division – tied with the Capitals at 38 points – but holding a game at hand and an additional regulation win versus the Ovechkins.

Now What?  Next up is the same team we’ve been battling with for 3rd in the division – the Washington Capitals – who we face Tuesday.    


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Five In A Row! Rangers Are Finer Than Carolina

These are good holiday times in Ranger Town as your hockey club just keeps finding ways to win.  Saturday night had many unpleasant features that we often see in Ranger losses:
  •   Disallowed Ranger Goal
  •   Giving up the go-ahead goal 20 seconds after tying the score
  •   Outplaying and outshooting their opponent – only to trail after a breakaway.
  •   The shootout

But – somehow – despite all of the above – your New York Rangers – who never led in this game -, fought back from two separate deficits to send the game into OT, and then won it on the shootout.

The first period was dominated by the Rangers everywhere except the scoreboard, where a two-on-one – that McDonagh almost broke up resulted in a goal by Chris Terry that put the Hurricanes up 1-0.  And the score stayed that way going into the third period –despite the Rangers outshooting Carolina 24-13 after two.

So on to the third, where the hard working Rangers finally solved Cam Ward.  Mats Zuccarello threaded a perfect pass through to J.T. Miller just as he was entering the offensive zone.  Miller darted in on Ward and beat him with a beautiful deke and soft toss in the net – and the Rangers, at long last, were tied at 4:07 of the third period.

They didn’t get long to enjoy it though.  A neutral zone turnover lead to a bad angle shot by Jeff Skinner – that somehow got by Hank – who appeared furious with himself after letting the Hurricane quickly regain their lead.

An apparent tying goal was waved off inside of 8 minutes.  Brassard – back from his bout with the mumps – was in the crease and in a bizarre sequence – Cam Ward threw off his own mask.  The Referees took note and when the puck was shot in the net – they waved the goal off in a sequence that the NHL will want to review.  From our vantage point – this looked like a bad call – but thankfully it didn’t finish off the Rangers  

Despite all these setback and bad puck-luck the Rangers kept their heads up and kept working to re-tie the game.  And with 2:27 left in regulation – the career year of Kevin Klein continued as he let loose a perfect slapper from the point that beat Ward and tied the hockey game (and was Kevin’s 7th on the year).  

The game went to overtime and then on to the shootout.  And in the skill competition, Mats Zuccarello used his hand speed to beat Ward high to his left.  And – with a determined and demonstrative Henrik Lundqvist slamming the door – that was all the Rangers needed – as they steal this one 3-2 after trailing for more than 50 regulation minutes before pulling out the win.

A nice, huge, emotional win for our fellows. 

Did Special Teams Determine the Outcome of this game?  I’d say yes -0 because the Rangers were 1-2 on the powerplay while running a perfect 4-4 on the PK. 

Where We Stand:  The win puts us back in the playoffs as we grab the 8th and final spot in the East – tied with Florida at 32 points but with a game at hand and more regulation wins.  And with the Capitals beating down the Devils Saturday – we trail them by 2 points for third place in the metro division – but have 2 big games at hand.

Now What?  It’s a back-to-back home-and-home so the Rangers return Sunday night to MSG to face the same Carolina Hurricanes. 
Nice win – Dave Pucks out and thanks for stopping by.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rangers Douse Flames 5-2 for 4th Straight Win

Playing their third game in four nights the Rangers flew past the Calgary Flames – bombing them for 5 goals and completing a sweep of their three game western road swing.
The first period featured a pair of unusual unassisted Ranger scores.

After a series of Ranger breakaways that netted nothing (three in the first minute) – followed by a shorthanded flurry by the Flames that had them dominating the Rangers despite the extra skater - New York finally cashed in on a puck that traveled nearly half way around the rink on the boards.  It started as a dump into the Ranger zone on a line change.  Calgary shot the puck around the right hand boards – Lundqvist tried to slow it and missed – and the puck continued around the left boards and rocketed to center.  At the point – Rick Nash - the Ranger’s leading goal scorer – realized the opportunity and headed into the Calgary zone as the puck reached him like a perfect pass.  Caught in a line change – the Flames were late covering and Nash skated right in on Karri Ramo.  From there Rick deked the Flame’s goaltender, crossed left in front of him – drawing contact from Calgary’s late-arriving defenseman – and directed the puck around Ramo’s right pad and into the net.   

The Game stayed 1-0 until the final seconds of the first.  With time running down and the Rangers with the man advantage – Zuccarello fired a slapshot that Ramo handled – but as Russell – his defensemen – tried to softly feed the pack back to his goalie – Chris Kreider darted forward and skimmed the puck down Ramo’s leg and into the net at 19:52.

In the 2nd Nash got his 2nd of the night off a pretty Stepan feed for a 3-1 lead.  And then Stepan scored himself on a pretty wraparound at 11:15 that sent Ramo to the showers for the night trailing 4-1.  In came Hiller and the Flames battled back for their first goal less than a minute later.  Still the Rangers and Lundqvist stiffened their defense and they headed to the final period with a 4-1 lead

The third period was scoreless despite offensive pressure by the home team.  Then – with a lengthy 4+ minutes to go – the Flames pull their goalie.  And for the second time in recent memory – Carl Hagelin used his smarts and his speed to score an empty netter for the 5-1 lead with three minutes to go.  This put Hiller back in the net.  But then – after a Marc Staal cross checking penalty – Calgary scored with the extra skater at 18:45 and it was 5-2.

For some reason, the Flames – who had pulled their goalie at 4-1 with 4 minutes to go – declined to do so at 5-2 with a minute 15 to play.   And so, soon enough time expired and the Rangers had their 4th straight win.

Assists for Stepan, Girardi, St. Louis, Hayes, Stempniak, and yes Lundqvist.  J.T. Miller left the game and went to the locker room - but later returned to the bench and played – a welcome sight with Brassard out of the lineup with the Mumps (the 14th NHL player to catch the Mumps this year). 

Hank ended up stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced for a save percentage of 0.935%.

Did Special Teams Decide This Hockey game?  Well, the Rangers had a Power Play goal – a shorthanded goal and an empty netter while only letting up one PPG to the Flames.  On the other hand – even strength they outscored Calgary 2-1, so you can go either way on this one.


Where We Stand: The Rangers rise to their season high of 15-10-4, which puts them in 3rd place in the Metro – tied with the Caps in points after Washington’s shootout loss, but with a game at hand.


Now What?  More days off for our heroes who rest until Saturday when they begin a home-and-home at the Hurricanes.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rangers Blank Oilers 2-0


The thing about the Edmonton Oilers is that they can’t score.  Their goals per game average of 2.1 is 29th in a league of 30 teams.   It reminds me of the old Rangers – under John Tortorella who could defend but could not put the puck in the net.   

But – happily – this year’s Rangers are something of an offensive powerhouse.  They are – incredibly – 5th in the NHL is goals scored with 2.96.  You out that together with what we think Henrik Lundqvist is capable of and this could be a special year. 

Last night – The Rangers did not get the huge opening jump they got against Vancouver the night before.  In fact, they didn’t get a shot on goal until 10:42 of the first period.  But at 16:04 it was Dan Girardi who ended up breaking through.  The Ranger defender threw the puck at the crease from an impossible angle – hoping to feed Mats Zuccarello.   Zuke missed the puck completely, but it caromed off an Olier’s skate and into the net – a lucky goal and – as it turned out – all the Rangers 
would need.

In fact, it was such a flukey goal (Editor – I’m not sure Flukey is a word) (Dave Pucks – I know and I’m using it anyway) that Girardi, despite notching the game winner – was not on of the 3 stars of the game.

But Henrik Lundqvist – with his 5th shutout of the year (55th lifetime) made sure the lone Ranger goal stood up.  Of course – the Ranger defense and the lack of Oiler offense were big contributors – Edmonton only managed 16 shots on goal. 

The final goal was by Carl Hagelin, who gained possession of the puck in the game’s final minute – with the Oiler net empty – and used his speed to become the only player on either team in the Edmonton defensive zone.  All alone – Hagelin scored the empty netter at 19:38 of the third to give the Rangers the 2-0 victory.

Loose Pucks:  One more item to note – Brassard had to sit out because he is the 14th NHL player this year diagnosed with the Mumps. 

Did Special Teams Decide This Game?  Only sort of.  The Rangers killed off two power plays – but failed to score on their only man advantage.

Where We Stand:  The Rangers happy little three game win streak still has them 1 point behind the 3rd place Capitals in the metro (with a game at hand) but their 32 points currently  has them with the 8th and final playoff spot in the East.  We’ll take it

Now What?  After 2 games in 2 days – The Rangers get a day off before heading to Calgary to take on the Flames.
    


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rangers Vanquish Vancouver 5-1 in a “Tale Of Two Millers”

It was the best of Millers, it was the worst of Millers…

The Best: The Ranger’s J. T. Miller has had his season and career rise from the ashes as the young forward has been yanked from the AHL and landed right into Chris Krieder’s spot on the Rangers 2nd line.  And for the 2nd consecutive game – Miller delivered with a goal on a single shot, 3 hits and a plus one on the night.       

The Worst: Ryan Miller, Canuck’s goalie and Ranger hater was just blitzed, giving up 3 goals on his first 4 shots.  But to be fair, the former US Olympic hero had no chance on most of those.

Out Coached:  Alain Vigneault had spotted the Canucks tendency to cheat their defensemen forward – and had his men ready.  Over and over again in the first period – the Blueshirts caught Vancouver pinching in, pounced on them, forced odd man rushes and cashed in.

It was a three goal barrage in the first.  The Captain scored first – finishing a 3 on 1 with a easy tap in off a perfect pass by Jesper Fast.  43 seconds later came JT’s goal and at 3:19 of the first it was already 2-0 Rangers

Brassard and Nash found Mats Zuccarello three minutes later and the rout was on.

In the 2nd Marc Staal scored through traffic and then little Mats Z got his 2nd of the night (6th of the year) (it was 2 goals on 2 shots!) and it was 5-0.  Vancouver broke up the shut out off a Ranger defensive zone turnover when Nick Bonino beat Hank high on the glove side (just like they’re all taught to shoot an Hank).

But a great road win for our heroes who showed energy and jump and no sluggishness after a long layoff and big trip out west. 

Did Special teams decide this game?  No.  Just one penalty all night, a McDonagh trip in the third that the Rangers killed off. 

Where we Stand:  The Ovechkins won again so we are three points out third place and the final playoff spot in the Metro.  But we hold two games at hand so if we can keep winning….


Now What?  The team travels on to Edmonton to play an Oiler team that beat the Rangers 3-1 on November 7th but have only won once since.  I’m sure both teams remember that.  Dave Pucks Out and thanks for reading.